Bill Belew has raised 2 bi-cultural kids, now 34 and 30. And he and his wife are now parenting a 3rd, Mia, who is 8.
Mia Mei’s Daddy said I could say a little bit about what I think is good about growing up in two different cultures. I’m not really an expert in growing up nor in cultures, but I do know quite a bit about good ways to solve engineering problems. That might seem a little far afield from living in two cultures. But think about it; everyone has problems, and everyone needs to solve them.
Now, most people’s problems don’t involve calculating things, nor applying advanced science, but that’s not really the important part of solving problems anyway, not even for engineering problems. The important part is creativity.
Painters are creative with paint, musicians are creative with notes and sound, financiers are creative with money, and engineers are creative with physical principles and math. For being creative, one really good way to get the juices flowing is cross-pollination (what bees do). If you plant different kinds of peppers in one garden, or different kinds of melons, you find out that your garden suddenly starts getting real creative. You can wind up with purple jalapenos or very spicy bell peppers.
In engineering, one way to get creative, you might say “to be an innovator”, is to look at how engineers in completely different fields of engineering approach problems similar to what you are facing. In software design, you might look at how mechanical engineers design things, and wind up inventing object oriented programming. In civil engineering you might use techniques developed by radio/electrical engineers to design earthquake safe buildings. I once used methods for designing table-top test equipment to design something the size of a bus that could be repaired in 1/50th the time anyone expected (which was something the customer really liked).
What does this have to do with growing up in two cultures? Every day problems, like how to make friends or how to succeed in a group, benefit just as much from creativity as innovative engineering or creative financing. Knowing two cultures from the inside will give Mia Mei a great tool kit for creatively solving the daily problems of life, whether she is 5, 15, or 50. She’ll have a leg up on her poor friends who only have one culture to draw from.
As a parent myself, I will make one prediction that I feel very confident in. She will learn to very creatively navigate to whichever parent is most likely to say “yes”, for any given request. With two very different cultures to draw from, she is a very lucky child indeed.
Paul Coker writes a blog titled “The Complete Engineer.”